Lake Washington Institute of Technology Receives Over $135,000 To Give ESL Students a Jump Start to the Workforce


Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWIT) recently received more than $135,000 in grants toward its Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program. Designed to give English as a second language (ESL) students a jump start into their technical and professional education, I-BEST gives students the opportunity to attend higher level professional and technical courses while still completing adult basic education courses needed as prerequisites to LWIT degrees.


“ESL students typically require three to nine quarters of ESL and adult basic education classes before they can enroll in courses that will count toward a degree,” says Mihaela Cosma, basic skills coordinator. “I-BEST allows these students who’ve progressed through entry level ESL courses to start attending the classes in their academic focus while still progressing through their adult basic education, allowing them to enter the workforce much sooner.”


The grant funds will be distributed into three of LWIT’s four I-BEST programs:


On-Ramp ($26,000 from the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges) – A program designed for entry-level ESL students to take basic skills classes in addition to ESL, where before the program they were required to progress further through ESL before advancing their math and computer skills. The goal is to get ESL students into degree level classes earlier in their education than would otherwise be possible. This program began winter quarter 2012.


Academic ($30,000 from the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges) – Starting fall quarter 2012, this program is a fast track to three major-ready pathways. Advanced ESL students in this program take 20 transferable credits in addition to basic skills education with the intent to continue their schooling at a 4-year university in nursing, business or technology.


Developmental Education ($80,000 from the Gates Foundation) – These courses integrate professional-technical classes in automotive repair, diesel mechanics, and motorcycle repair with developmental-level mathematics. Completing these courses satisfies several requirements: credit toward a professional-technical degree and satisfaction of developmental skills prerequisites and the quantitative reasoning requirement.


More than 100 students are enrolled in LWIT’s I-BEST program. LWIT’s I-BEST students have one of the highest 2-year degree completion rates in the state at 70 percent versus 26 percent for all enrolled students. Additionally, for the past two years, many LWIT I-BEST students have made the dean’s or president’s lists for academic achievement.


LWIT’s I-BEST program, which was originally based on a concept developed by the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, helps underserved populations achieve a livable wage. The program pairs technical and basic skills instructors, who work together to teach students the language and the skills they need as students to earn credit toward a certificate or degree. LWIT I-BEST programs such as Accounting Assistant, Business Administration Support, General Service Technician, Industrial/Laboratory, and Energy Technology allow adult literacy students to enter their desired educational/career pathways while still progressing through basic skills.